On Louie. Once More.

[Content Note: Sexual assault; coercion; descriptions of abuse and manipulation; hostility to consent.]

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the episode of Louie in which the titular character, played by the show's creator Louis CK, attempts to rape his romantic interest, Pamela.

I've had requests for commentary on the subsequent episodes, and I've now watched the final two episodes of the season, so I could provide a follow-up to that piece.

The penultimate episode opens with Louie calling Pamela. She is jokingly mean to him, in her usual way, as Louie tells her he wants to take her out. He gets frustrated with her when she says she won't go, but doesn't say what her other plans are, and Pamela rhetorically questions why it is that men think if women don't have other plans, that they're owed women's sexual attention.

The only reference to the attempted rape is when Louie asserts he knows she wants to go, and simultaneously implies she owes it to him, because she kissed him back, to which Pamela replies, "I most certainly did not."

He continues to pressure her, and she finally agrees, with the stipulation they'll be spending time together as friends. Louie then calls it a date right before hanging up and laughing deviously. Because everything has to be on his terms.

For their date, Louie takes her to a modern art show and then to Central Park, at night, where he spreads out a blanket on the ground and tells her to lie on her back. When she is hesitant, he instructs her to trust him. Finally, she lies on her back, and then Louie tells her to look at the stars. She is delighted to see shooting stars.

Suddenly, Louie is a romantic hero, despite the fact he could have, at any point, merely told her he was taking her to see a meteor shower, instead of making her go through a bunch of creepy instructions for this surprise romantic gesture. Pamela kisses Louie. He gets his reward.

They go back to his place, and, upon entering, Pamela tells him she's just going to use the bathroom and then leave. But when she tries to leave a few minutes later, Louie blocks the door and refuses to let her go. He shuts the door and essentially tells her that she owes him sex after kissing him in the park. When Pamela disagrees, he tells her to leave.

She follows him into another room, where he's sitting on the couch, pouting. He again accuses her of being mean, and tells her that she hurts him by playing with him, which really means by not being on precisely the same sexual schedule that he is. He says he doesn't even want to know her.

This scene is incredibly difficult to watch, because Louie is emotionally manipulating Pamela by communicating to her that the only way she can prove her feelings for him, and the only way he'll keep her in his life, is if she fucks him on demand. It's incredibly coercive, and it is designed to be that way. Louie could have easily just let her leave, and then broken up with her by telling her it wasn't working, but that's not what he does: He pouts and threatens her with abandonment, right to her face, while she's still in his apartment, clearly hoping he can guilt her into fucking him.

And it works: Pamela and Louie exchange sexts of their junk from a few feet away, and then Pamela walks toward the bedroom. Cut to the next morning, and they have fucked and spent the night together.

Everything about this is terrible. I don't know what commentary Louis CK is attempting to make here, but the reality is that what we've seen is a deeply dysfunctional, abusive, coercive exchange in which a man threatened a woman to cut her off altogether if she didn't prove her feelings for him by sleeping with him, even after she made it clear that she wasn't ready.

The theme from the previous episode, in which Louie knows Pamela's real feelings, and just has to pressure her until she yields to them (and him), runs throughout this episode, as well as the next.

The finale opens with Louie coming home from grocery shopping to discover that Pamela has had all of his furniture removed because it's ugly, lest anyone think there is any respect for consent and agency anywhere inside this relationship.

Pamela does girlfriend-things with Louie throughout the day: Hanging out with him and his kids; meeting his ex-wife; attending his comedy show; giving him career advice.

At the end of the day, standing in her kitchen, he tells her that he loves her. It's awkward; she's uncomfortable. She can't/won't say the words in return, because expressing feelings, romantic or otherwise, is extremely difficult for her. Which she tells him. As if he doesn't already know.

The thing is, Louie insistently wants Pamela to be someone that she manifestly isn't. He wants her to be the person she is, the person with whom he fell in love, but also wants her to be this totally other person, who is touchy-feely and serious and romantic. This is a classic emotional abuse dynamic.

Louie again gets angry at Pamela for not being on his schedule, and for not being this totally other person he wants her to be, now that she's his girlfriend. And he gets angry at her for trying to initiate sex in response to his anger, which naturally totally confuses her—because, up until this point, every time Pamela doesn't give Louie exactly what he wants the exact moment he wants it, he guilts or threatens her into sexual contact until she caves.

Now she's learned that pattern, but it's a moving target. Louie doesn't want sex in this moment; in this moment, he wants to hear her say "I love you." And now that she's playing to the old pattern, Louie chalks it up to some flaw in her. "Stop trying to have sex with me to avoid me." He yells at her and points his finger in her face. She reacts unseriously, by sucking his finger, so he storms out.

As he's walking down the street with a face like thunder, Pamela calls him and tells him to come back right now. He returns to her apartment, which is dark, except for a light emanating from the bathroom. There, Pamela is in the bath, surrounded by lit candles. She tells Louie to get in the tub, which he does, after expressing sensitivity about his body, for which she makes fun of him and then has to apologize.

He joins her in the tub and she scrubs his back, asking him to tell her the story of his first kiss, which turns out to be a popular girl kissing him on a dare. When she expresses sympathy, he's all, "Who cares? I got to kiss a popular girl!" He asks her for the story of her first kiss, which is about her getting into a fight with someone and contains no kissing at all.

Pamela then tells Louie that she knows he wants her to be all these things that she isn't, but that she's here, spending time with him in a tub, and caring about him. She asks him, "Can this just be okay?" He looks at her.

That is the final scene. And I have no idea where the show is going from here, but, if it looks anything like a real relationship with these dynamics, no, it can't just be okay. Because someone who constantly pressures their partner to be someone they're not in order to sufficiently prove their love will never just be okay with anything less than their bullshit ideal.

And someone who expects their partner to fuck them on demand will never just be okay with respecting their partner's agency and consent.

And someone who continually asserts to know their partner's needs and desires better than themselves will never just be okay with accepting their partner's feelings for what they are, or respecting their boundaries.

And someone who is emotionally manipulative, sexually coercive, and conditionally affectionate will never just be okay with letting their partner be who the fuck they are.

What I was watching was a horror scene, set to romantic music.

I honestly don't give a fuck if Louis CK does have some sort of long game he's playing, where it will all blow up in Louie's face, and there will somehow, magically, be an effective commentary on how manipulating a woman into being your girlfriend is a terrible fucking thing to do. I am horrified that there are young men, lots of young men, watching this show and seeing this as a romantic arc with a happy ending.

This isn't a model for romance. It's a blueprint for abuse.

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